This topic has been weighing on me for a while now. I try to keep my posts relatively upbeat – even when I’m wrangling with my story — but now that I’ve finished my latest draft, I finally have the energy to tackle this subject.
So, so, so… I noticed while I was working on my latest draft that I’ve been disengaging with the writing and reading communities. It didn’t just happen recently either. It’s been happening since I embarked on writing my novel, and I just wasn’t overtly aware of my reactions until now. I find it such an counter-intuitive behaviour, considering the number of times I complained about how isolating writing is.
At first, I didn’t even think there was a problem. After all, I have this WordPress blog and a Tumblr account where I give writing updates. I have friends to whom I regularly talk about my novel, and who share their writing with me too. And whenever I see writeblrs on Tumblr, I get a very strong urge to reblog their posts or engage in their writing memes. Whenever I hear about writing groups, I get a spark of excitement.
But at the end of the day, I don’t introduce myself to any of the writeblrs I find. I never join a writing group, even the ones highly recommended by trusted friends. It seemed like I was only excited about joining these groups in theory, but not in practice.
Then I realized the difference between writing on my blogs and mingling in a community. In communities, I can’t just talk about me and my WIP. I actually have to be proactive with other participants, and hear about them and their work. In a writing community, I am exposed to the works and efforts of so many other people. And that’s when my brain starts its awful chatter.
There’s this unavoidable voice in my head that compares my work to theirs. If I see someone writing something very different from my story, my brain goes, “Oh look, their idea is so much better. It’s so much more current and marketable.” If I see someone writing something similar to mine, my brain goes, “Oh boy, there’s only one space in the market for that kind of idea, and you have no chance of filling that spot.” If there’s someone who’s ahead in the writing process, I’d think, “Wow, I’m so lazy. I can’t believe I’m only still in the drafting stages. This person is 10 years younger than me, and they already have 2 books out!” And if there’s someone who’s still in the brainstorming stage, I feel threatened by their potential.
It’s gotten to a point where sometimes I’m even too uncomfortable to go on Goodreads. When I see all new releases, my brain scolds me that I should have finished my story by now. That I’m either not writing about the same trends as these books do, or that I’m writing something completely cliche. I don’t know how my brain manages to think that at the same time, but there you go.
I just don’t know why I feel like this. Because objectively speaking, I shouldn’t be comparing myself to them, right? We’ve all heard those proverbs and sayings and Pinterest-worthy slogans about comparisons, about minding our own business, about just doing our own thing.
And I know that. And my reaction is to hit the back-button on those blogs, to turn away from those writing groups, to cancel meet-ups, to ignore the new releases, and just “work on my own thing.”
But that leaves me exactly where I’ve always been: writing by myself in a journey that is mostly solitary. And sometimes I just wonder if there will ever be a way for me to meaningfully engage with the writing and reading communities again without secretly feeling bad about myself.